Tuesday, Mar 14, 2017

Crisis: Secret Services, North Korea, Watergate Inquiry (?), Trump Dystopia (?)

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Rand Paul Is Right: NSA Routinely Monitors Americans’
     Communications Without Warrants

2. China Warns U.S. & North Korea Are Set for "Head-On"
     Collision Amid Rising Tensions & Provocations

Hacking the Election: We Should Call Trump’s Bluff for a
     Watergate-Style Inquiry

4. The Trump Dystopian Nightmare: Nuclear War, Climate
     Change and a Clash of Civilizations
Are All on the Horizon

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday
, March 14, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald who (once again) explains that the secret services know almost everything there is to know about persons, which includes US citizens; item 2 is about the present quite tense situation around North Korea; item 3 is about an article that seemed to me mostly wishful thinking; and item 4 is about an article that promises to be about Trump's dystopian nightmare, but seems - in my eyes - more designed to sell the dystopian novel its author wrote.
March 14: As to the updating problem: The Danish site is again on time today; but the Dutch site stuck again - for me - on last Sunday. Where my site on stuck for others I have NO idea: It may be December 31, 2015. (They do want immediate payment if you are a week behind. has been destroying my site now for over a year. And I completely distrust them, but also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. Rand Paul Is Right: NSA Routinely Monitors Americans’ Communications Without Warrants

The first item today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This is from the beginning (and I am summarizing):

Paul explained how the NSA routinely and deliberately spies on Americans’ communications — listens to their calls and reads their emails — without a judicial warrant of any kind:

They are not targeting Americans. They are targeting foreigners. But they are doing it purposefully to get to Americans.

Paul’s explanation is absolutely correct. That the NSA is empowered to spy on Americans’ communications without a warrant — in direct contravention of the core Fourth Amendment guarantee that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” — is the dirty little secret of the U.S. Surveillance State.

Yes indeed. And one underlying point is thay the Constitution is very difficult to change, so its laws can only be lied about by those in power who transgress them:

As I documented at the height of the controversy over the Snowden reporting, top government officials — including President Obama — constantly deceived (and still deceive) the public by falsely telling them that their communications cannot be monitored without a warrant. Responding to the furor created over the first set of Snowden reports about domestic spying, Obama sought to reassure Americans by telling Charlie Rose: “What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls … by law and by rule, and unless they … go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause.”

This is plain baloney, that is pure bullshit, that is a fully known fully false utter lie:

Those statements are categorically false. A key purpose of the new 2008 FISA law — which then-Senator Obama voted for during the 2008 general election after breaking his primary-race promise to filibuster it — was to legalize the once-controversial Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping program, which the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing in 2005. The crux of the Bush/Cheney controversy was that they ordered NSA to listen to Americans’ international telephone calls without warrants — which was illegal at the time — and the 2008 law purported to make that type of domestic warrantless spying legal.

To put it plainly (mirroring Obama): "if you are a U.S. person, the NSA" CAN "listen to your telephone calls", and all without any warrant or any court, and they can do so in two ways:

(1) they need to find some non-American that you (an American) were in contact with (against non-Americans - Who Lack The Exclusive Birth Right Of Genuine Americans - anything is admitted, by Americans) and use that to track you (all without any warrant or any court: What right did you have to make contact with any non- American?!?!), or (2) they simply leave the searches to the GCHQ, while the NSA does the searches of the Brits, and both exchange the results of their searches (which they again can make without any warrant and exchange without any warrant, from either a US or a British court).

Here is how it is outlined by Human Rights Watch:

Those who actually work to protect Americans’ privacy rights and other civil liberties have been warning for years that NSA is able to purposely monitor Americans’ communications without warrants. Human Rights Watch has warned that “in reality the law allows the agency to capture potentially vast numbers of Americans’ communications with people overseas” and thus “currently underpins some of the most sweeping warrantless NSA surveillance programs that affect Americans and people across the globe.”

And here is in more detail how the first way I distinguished works:

Even more alarming is the power NSA now has to search the immense amount of Americans’ communications data it routinely collects without a warrant. As Goitein explained: “The government may intentionally search for this information even though it would have been illegal, under section 702’s ‘reverse targeting’ prohibition, for the government to have such intent at the time of collection.”

The underlying point is that the Deep State - say: the military-industrial-security complex (<-Wikipedia) - wants complete dossiers on anyone; can create complete dossiers on anyone; but does not want to admit this until it is definitely too late for anybody to protest without risking disappearance:

And while — as I’ve argued previously — any leaks that reveal lying by officials are criminal yet justified even if they come from the CIA or NSA, Paul is also correct that these domestic warrantless eavesdropping powers vest the Deep State — or, if you na´vely prefer, our noble civil servants — with menacing powers against even the highest elected officials.

The warrantless gathering and searching of vast amounts of communications data essentially becomes a dossier that can be used even against domestic opponents. This is what Snowden meant in his much-maligned but absolutely true statement in his first interview with us back in 2013 that “I, sitting at my desk, could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.”

Here is Greenwald's ending:

Those eager to preserve these domestic surveillance powers in their maximalist state rely on the same tactic that has worked so well for them for 15 years now: rank disinformation.

If nothing else, this debate ought to finally obliterate that pleasing though utterly false myth that the U.S. government does not and cannot spy on Americans’ communications without warrants. It does so constantly, easily, deliberately, and by design.

Yes indeed. And the U.S. government spies on American citizens without any warrants basically because this is how they want to control the complete American population in the future: "Let Me Remind You: If You Have NOT Done ANYTHING We Secret Spies Dislike You Have NOTHING To Fear!!".

And this has a very good chance of working, because the majority is conformist, not intelligent, has little or no understanding of science or logic or philosophy, and looks up to most leaders.

When it works, humanity may have hundreds of years of successful dictatorship by the rich and the government, for they can eliminate anyone who may be inclined to criticize them without any protest and without any knowledge: Their secret services will know everything anyone thinks or feels.

And this is the ideal situation for any authoritarian government.

2. China Warns U.S. & North Korea Are Set for "Head-On" Collision Amid Rising Tensions & Provocations

The second item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:

The political upheaval in South Korea comes shortly after North Korea test-fired several ballistic missiles. In response, the Trump administration announced it would deploy a missile defense system to South Korea. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of South Korean and U.S. troops, backed by warships and warplanes, are currently engaging in a massive military exercise. Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that the U.S. and North Korea are like two "accelerating trains coming toward each other." He called on both sides to de-escalate tensions. We speak with University of Chicago professor Bruce Cumings and Christine Ahn, founder and international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ.

I will quote nothing by Bruce Cummings but the situation is tense, what with Sourth Korea's prime minister deposed and China's Foreign Minister issueing warnings:

CHRISTINE AHN: Well, I’m concerned that we have a situation in South Korea that is essentially a political vacuum until the next progressive president comes into power. And we have a Trump administration that has said that it’s, you know, undertaking a Korea policy review, which has ranged from he’s willing to sit down with Kim Jong-un and have a hamburger to preemptive strikes. And what really worries me is, while these military exercises may be routine, you know, the South Korean media just reported that the U.S. has deployed a team of Navy SEALs, that basically took out Osama bin Laden. You know, it includes unmanned aircraft that could basically completely destroy Pyongyang.

I say. One might think that North Korea has some 25 million inhabitants while it is a dangerous dictatorship, so it could easily be taken out, but:

CHRISTINE AHN: Yeah, that’s basically taking out the North Korean leader. And I think that there is a perception in this country that—that regime collapse is imminent and that all it will take is a military action to conduct it. And when has regime change ever been successful? And what would be the likelihood for the millions of South Koreans right across the DMZ and the innocent civilians? But it would engulf the entire region into a very dangerous regional conflict—Russia, China, Japan, the United States. By being part of mutual defense treaties, it will engulf the entire region. Five of those—of the top 10 countries in terms of their military capacity and defense spending are in that region. It’s a tinderbox.

Yes indeed. There is more in the original.

3. Hacking the Election: We Should Call Trump’s Bluff for a Watergate-Style Inquiry

The third item is by Bill Blum on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

At precisely 3:35 a.m. EST on March 4, President Donald John Trump—who has long boasted of his ability to function on just a few hours of sleep per night—launched perhaps the most incendiary tweet-storm of his tweet-filled career from within the gilt-encrusted confines of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.

“Terrible!” Trump typed on his trusty smartphone. “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the [November election] victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

After posting two more tweets claiming that Obama’s plan to wiretap him had been “turned down” by a court and that “a good lawyer” could “make a great case” against Obama—and roughly an hour before taking to Twitter again to blast Arnold Schwarzenegger for his ratings failures as the new host of “Celebrity Apprentice”—Trump compared Obama’s conduct to “Nixon/Watergate.”

Today a year ago I decided that Trump was probably a genuine megalomanic, that is, he is genuinely not sane, since he is a grandiose narcissist. I did have a year in which I saw a lot more of Trump, heard a lot more of Trump, read a lot more of Trump, and I still think the same, except that my case is a lot stronger.

And indeed the above is strong evidence that Trump is not sane, and to that extent I agree with Bill Blum. But then he comes with a plan that seems - at the present stage of history at least, with Trump just six weeks president - pure wishful thinking:

The Watergate hearings were instrumental in bringing about Nixon’s resignation. They were also a civics lesson writ large in a time of grave national disunity, as well as a collective search for political truth and an exercise in speaking truth to power.

We need an inquiry of the same magnitude today, convened by either a new select committee modeled after the one led by Ervin or an independent commission armed with full federal subpoena power.
The probe we need should be directed at the entire issue of undue influence, cyber and otherwise, in the 2016 election. It should be a no-holds-barred affair, offering maximum transparency, with no preconceptions, and guided by an abiding commitment to follow the evidence wherever it leads, no matter whose reputations are sullied, or whose misconduct or crimes are exposed.

There is a whole lot more, for Blum did think through the kinds of things he wants to see investigated - but I am sorry: I find his plan quite incredible and indeed pure wishful thinking. If you want to know more, click the last dotted link.

4. The Trump Dystopian Nightmare: Nuclear War, Climate Change and a Clash of Civilizations Are All on the Horizon

The fourth and last item today is by John Feffer:

I found this also quite disappointing: It is less a warning of "Nuclear War, Climate Change and a Clash of Civilizations" than - it seems to me - an advertisement for his dystopian novel "Splinterlands".

Here is the first of three bits I'll quote from this article:

As novelist Junot Diaz argued last October, dystopia has become “the default narrative of the generation.” Shortly after Diaz made that comment, dystopia became the default narrative for American politics as well when Donald Trump stepped off the set of The Celebrity Apprentice and into the Oval Office. With the election of an uber-narcissist incapable of distinguishing between fact and fantasy, all the dystopian nightmares that had gathered like storm clouds on the horizon -- nuclear war, climate change, a clash of civilizations -- suddenly moved overhead.
Novelist Junot Diaz argued a bullshit proposition: No one knows what a "generation" really thinks, while Diaz does not even specify which generation he has in mind. But
dystopia became the default narrative for American politics", that is, according to John Feffer, who wrote a dystopian novel - yes he did! - he wants to sell.

There is also this:

The concentration of power in the executive branch, and Trump’s evident willingness to wield it, certainly echoes dystopian fears of 1984-style totalitarianism. So have the extraordinary lies, the broadsides against the media (“enemies of the people”), and the targeting of internal and external adversaries of every sort. But this is no totalitarian moment.  Trump is not interested in constructing a superstate like Oceania or even a provincial dictatorship like Airstrip One, both of which Orwell described so convincingly in his novel.

Instead, coming out of the gate, the new administration has focused on what Trump’s chief strategist and white nationalist Stephen Bannon promised to do several years ago: “bring everything crashing down.”

And this:

At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Bannon spoke
instead of what was truly crucial to him (and assumedly the president): the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Here, Bannon was speaking specifically of unleashing Wall Street, polluting industries, gun sellers, while freeing a wide range of economic actors from regulation of just about any sort. But Trump’s cabinet appointments and the first indications of what a Trumpian budget might look like suggest a far broader agenda aimed at kneecapping the non-military part of the state by sidelining entire agencies and gutting regulatory enforcement. Bye-bye, EPA. Nighty-night, Department of Education. Nice knowing you, HUD. We sure will miss you, Big Bird and foreign aid.

Most of the rest seems to be more about dystopian novels than about politics - but as I said, John Feffer wrote a dystopian novel he wants to sell.


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